From the Archive: ‘Animal Farm’

Originally posted 25 February 2012 on tumblr.

51iSxG6+ixLby George Orwell

published 1945

I hadn’t read this book in years, since early high school, maybe.  I accidentally checked out some anniversary edition, so there were almost as many pages devoted to introductions and prefaces as there were to the actual story.  However, in one of them, a writer was lamenting the fact that Animal Farm is always read in English class now, not for History or Social Studies.  It’s used as an example of an allegory.  Look at the imagery.  How did Orwell get his point across about human activities?  etc. etc. etc.

But when this book was written, it wasn’t being read by bored middle-schoolers in English class.  It was being read by adults, by people who had been completely taken in by Stalin’s words and “vision.”  Orwell was one of the few writers who stood up and declared that what was happening in Russia was very, very bad.

It was amazing to read this book sort of “in context” as I have been reading so much about World War I, Czar Nicolas, the Russian Revolution, Marx, Trotsky, Lenin, Stalin.  This book really came together for me and I loved it in that horrible, creepy, shivery kind of way.  The book is brilliant.

Orwell was a socialist.  He believed in Socialism, believed in the writings of Marx.  But he also saw that what was happening in Russia was not true Socialism.  Animal Farm does not denounce Socialism.  Indeed, the speech given by the old pig who represents Marx is beautiful, poetic, inspiring.  Perhaps part of the depth of passion that fed Orwell’s writing flowed from the fact that he saw something in which he strongly believed being misused and misrepresented.

You should read this book.  It is a tale of tragedy and horror.  It is not a story that ends happily.  But it is a story of depth and thoughtfulness, as the rules are rewritten and the pigs become the very humans they strove so valiantly to overthrow.

“All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”